In Review: Van Helsing: Sword of Heaven #2

I love the intelligence of the protagonist, the exotic settings, and the supernatural threats.

The covers: Five frontpieces to find if you’re not afraid to seek them out. The A cover is by Edgar Salazar and Ivan Nunes and has Liesel in her familiar and revealing garb, complete with top hat, emerging from the water with a mini-crossbow in each hand. Above her a man sized vampire in bat-mode is about to seize her. Liesel looks great, the creature is threatening — love those huge wings, and the city behind them looks solid. The colors draw the reader immediately to the title character, while the monster’s eyes suck up attention. On a rooftop with a beautiful temple behind them, Liesel and the vampire from last issue spar on the C cover. The creature tries to use its wings and feet to take down the hero, while she is using a spike in her left hand to impale him. The vampire looks terrific, just like the beast appeared at the end of the previous issue. Liesel looks good, but her body is incredibly twisted to show what she’s doing. Decent job on this by Julius Abrera and Grostieta. The “Good Girl” cover is the C by Hedwin Zaldivar. This has a gorgeous Liesel making her way down a street holding a massive gun up in her right hand. The look on her face tells the reader she’s enjoying what she’s doing as her jacket beautiful billows to her right. She looks incredible, with the colors equally strong. I really like this. Allan Otero and Mohan Sivakami are responsible for the super D cover that showcases a supernatural foe in a train racing at Liesel, who can only be seen by her blowing hair and her left hand, holding a bloody stake. Love the villain, the setting, and the tease of the hero. The colors on the antagonist are perfect. Love the flowing trail of blood that creates some excellent motion on this. The one exclusive is the Holiday Zenbox Exclusive (limited to 150 copies) by Paul Green and Zaldivar. Sadly, I couldn’t find this cover anywhere online, so good luck, collectors! Overall grades: A A-, B B-, C A, and D A

The story: Liesel is in India to kill vampires and starts this issue face to face with a man sized one in bat form. The creature turns to look upon a man and boy emerging from an elevator. “Why, Miss Van Helsing, how thoughtful. You have provided me with a snack.” With the monster looking at his possible meal Liesel is able to strike the beast, allowing her to enter the elevator with the pair. As the beast reaches in to kill them, the hero has an incredibly smart way to preoccupy it so they can make their escape. Once outside, the boy says he can take Liesel to safety in his pedi-cab. “Pedal like the wind, son. There’s a hell of a tip in this for you.” That’s when the vampire bursts out of an upper story from the building and flies after them. A chase follows with, again, the protagonist doing something incredibly smart. I like how writer Chuck Dixon has Liesel as an intelligent hero, but not to the point where she’s undefeatable. Dara reenters the story seeing the aftermath of the violence from last issue. She contacts her superior and this new character is introduced. Another new character appears on Page 10 and is much more threatening than Dara and whom she works for. The conversation between this supernatural character and Liesel on Pages 11 – 12 is terrific stuff, with the conclusion on 13 extremely funny. I love where Liesel ends up in the third panel on this page and why she’s there. It is incredibly convenient for the arrival that occurs at the bottom of the page, but it does lead to some good background information without it being an information dump. The tease on 16 is great and I want to see more of that character. Page 20 introduces a solid threat, putting the characters in a bad situation. The final page has some great dramatic irony that will provide many obstacles in the next issue. I love the intelligence of the protagonist, the exotic settings, and the supernatural threats. Dixon is giving the reader everything but the kitchen sink. Overall grade: A

The art: Julius Abrera starts the issue with a full-paged splash that showcases an incredible looking vampire. I’ve been reading comics for many years and I’ve not seen one look like this, so I’m much appreciative of one that’s different. The second page shows how close the characters are to each other and the elevator, which is key for what’s going to happen on the next page. The point of view in the third panel on Page 3 is good and the panel that ends the page is creepy and funny. The pedi-cab looks great and must have been a bear to draw accurately. The violent exit that ends the page is cool. The point of view that concludes 5 is a great lead in to the first panel on Page 6 with the revulsion in the character obvious. The character introduced on 9 appears only in two panels but looks very shady. Foreshadowing? The long tease on 10 is outstanding and firmly grounded in classic Universal horror films. The design of this individual is great with his close-ups on 12 deliciously horrific. He is the exact opposite of Liesel’s beautiful visage. The looks Liesel shoots her companion on 14 and 15 amply her words perfectly. There are only three words of dialogue on 16 and Abrera tells a side story well with the visuals. The threat on 18 is okay, but is suggested by the visuals and not really defined. The final page introduces several threats for next issue and these characters look excellent. Abrera is doing a great job on this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: Also doing a strong job is colorist Maxflan Araujo. The first page demonstrates his skills with Liesel’s narration colored a dark crimson, the vampire’s dialogue is white letters in ebony balloons, Liesel is blue because she’s the farthest from the light source of the elevator, the colors on the creature highlight its unnatural muscles, the drool is highlighted by the red tongue, while the old man and the boy are the brightest on the page since they’re in the lift. The green that ends Page 3 maintains the eeriness of the character shown. The use of orange in the final panel on 5 increases the danger of the scene. The colors of the character’s flesh and speech balloons on 10 – 12 are perfect. Having Liesel in a red dress on these pages represent the intensity of her life. 16 has some excellent oranges and yellows. The blue skies on the final pages are beautiful. Overall grade: A

The letters: Saida Temofonte is the creator of this issue’s narration, dialogue, yells, a phone conversation, and the three word tease for next issue. I like that Liesel’s narration is different from the dialogue, but am disappointed that supernatural characters’ speech is differed from humans’ by the shape and colors of their balloons. A different font would be an additional visual to separate them from normal characters. Zenescope books are standouts for using the best for the design of fonts for inhuman speakers and to not see it in this issue is a letdown. There’s a lot of action in this issue, but no sounds. That was extremely disappointing. It’s not Temofonte’s decision to include or exclude sounds, that’s Dixon’s prerogative, but I miss them. Much of the fun of comics are their unique sounds. Overall grade: B

The final line: Smart, thrilling, entertaining, and visually engaging. This is a book that flies high above others. I’m really looking forward to Liesel’s journey through India to rid the world of vampires once and for all. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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